Saturday, July 13, 2024

Wildlife Wednesday: Laysan Duck

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Wildlife Wednesday: Laysan Duck

This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the critically endangered Hawaiian Laysan duck that’s making a surprising comeback.

When you think of Hawaii, it’s likely surfing or sunshine that spring to mind, rather than an endangered duck species. This Wildlife Wednesday, challenge that by learning about the critically endangered Hawaiian Laysan duck.

Habitat: Laysan Island and Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in northwestern Hawaii

Laysan Duck trivia

  • In 1911 only 11 Laysan ducks were recorded.
  • Laysan ducks do most of their feeding at night. Their favourite food is brine flies, although they eat a wide variety of insects and seeds.
  • Laysan ducks have brown feathers, a blue-green patch on their wings, and a white ring around their eyes. They have orange feet and legs, and they’re considered quite small.

Why they’re threatened
According to the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, when humans came to the island of Laysan in the 1890s, they killed “300,000 seabirds in six months and eventually eliminat[ed] three endemic landbirds (Laysan rail, Laysan honeycreeper, and the Laysan millerbird).” The Laysan duck, which barely survived, was also hunted for both sport and food. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) cites a wide variety of factors have threatened the Laysan duck including and since the 1890s, such as the introduction of rabbits and then rats to the island; parasites and other diseases; drought, tsunamis, hurricanes, and other weather changes; and the 2008 outbreak of avian botulism.

The IUCN also lists the effects of climate change as an ongoing major threat to the Laysan duck population, in the form of sea level changes and extreme weather. The US Geological Survey further notes that invasive plants could easily spell disaster as well.

However, the Laysan duck population, though still listed as critically endangered, is showing signs of hope, after a successful reintroduction into the wild. In fact, it may be downlisted from its status as critically endangered if the recent population growth is sustained. That’s good news for the Laysan duck and great news for biodiversity as a whole.

How to help the Laysan Duck

  • Do your part to fight climate change.
  • Learn more about invasive plants and the importance of plant biodiversity. 

Looking for more Wildlife Wednesday posts?
Check out these past posts:

  • Sumatran tigers
  • Leatherback sea turtles
  • Przewalski\’s horse
  • Vancouver Island Marmot 
  • Orangutans

Photo by Jimmy Breeden [Public], via Wikimedia Commons

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